Tuxedo Style: What is Black Tie?

Tuxedo Style: What is Black Tie?Imagine you get an envelope in the mail from an old friend. You open it and it’s a wedding invitation! Wow! You didn’t even know he was dating anyone! Then you see at the bottom of the invite the words “Black Tie.” What exactly is he expecting?

We talk a lot about Black Tie here. Black Tie attire. Black Tie standards. Black Tie tradition. So what exactly is Black Tie besides… well… a black tie? Most of us have a general idea, but our understanding of the specifics is much like the image above: A little blurry. So today we’re taking a good look at exactly what Black Tie is and what it means today.

Definition of Black Tie

Black Tie doesn’t just indicate a tuxedo. It’s actually a very specific interpretation of the tuxedo. It’s the most formal, the most classic, and the most timeless interpretation. While there are a few allowable variations, here are the specifics of the standard:

Example of Black Tie Attire: Black 'Icon' Tuxedo by PMCoat
Color: Black or Midnight Blue
Material: Wool
Style: Usually Single Breasted
Front Buttons: 1
Button Type: Satin Faced
Lapel: Peak or Shawl
Lapel Material: Satin
Pockets: Satin Besom Pockets
Vents: Non Vented

Color: Matching Coat
Material: Matching Coat
Outer Seam: Satin Stripe
Waistband: Fixed or Size Adjusters
Belt Loops: Never
Held By: Suspenders/Braces
Cuffs: No Cuffs

Color: White
Collar: Turn-Down
Front: Pleated
Alt. Front: Solid with Button Placket
Front Closure: Black/Silver Studs
Cuff Closure: Black/Silver Cuff Links

Bow Tie
Color: Black (clearly)
Material: Satin (to match lapels)
Knot: Tie it Yourself

Waist Covering
Waistcoat: AKA Vest with Low ‘V’
Color: Matching Coat
Material: Matching Coat
Front Buttons: 3 to 4
Back: Fullback or Backless
Color: Black
Material: Satin or Silk

Color: Black
Material: Patent or Polished Leather
Closure: Laced or Slip On

Pocket Square
Color: White

The above is an accurate but very sophomoric description of Black Tie. Once you start looking at the allowable variations you get into the art of Black Tie and that’s a whole other conversation. But if you follow the above guidelines you will always be appropriately dressed for any Black Tie function. Also, you’ll look really dapper.

If you want to learn more about Black Tie guidelines and the intricate variations possible, take a visit to The Black Tie Guide and study up. If there’s any one source for quality information on Black Tie, it’s there.

Black Tie Invitations

Black_Tie_Invitation_3Back to the original question. What do you do if you get a Black Tie invitation? Well, this is sometimes confusing. You know that Black Tie refers to a very specific formal interpretation. The problem is that a lot of people, maybe even most people, don’t. That sometimes includes the hosts.

To many the term Black Tie simply means tuxedo required. Any tuxedo with any kind of tie so long as it’s black will do. And maybe you already have a tuxedo that isn’t strictly a Black Tie tuxedo that you want to wear. Whenever in doubt, you can always ask the host what will be appropriate. It may be that any classic looking tuxedo is fine, and that opens up your options quite a bit.

If you aren’t sure exactly what the host intended and don’t want to ask, play it safe with a Black Tie tuxedo. You’ll be right every time. You’ll always look great. And you’ll still look current when you look back at the pictures 30 years from now.

Test Your Knowledge with the Black Tie Quiz Game!

It was between this and ‘Pin the Tie on the Groomsman‘, and that’s hard to do in a blog. So instead, you get to test your knowledge of Black Tie attire! Below are several styles of tuxedos and suits. Try to guess which ones are Black Tie appropriate and which aren’t. Hover your cursor over the picture for the answer. But be mindful. I’ve included several acceptable variations as well, so they won’t all look like the image above. For those on mobile devices, the answers are at the bottom. Good Luck!


No.  This is a suit, not a tuxedo.  Also it has a 2 button front and a notch lapel.  None of these are Black Tie appropriate.

1.) Black ‘Ceremonia’ Suit by Jean Yves

Nope.  The notch lapel and 2 button front keep this tuxedo from being Black Tie appropriate.

2.) Black ‘Chaplin II’ Tuxedo by After Six
















Yes!  Midnight Blue is an acceptable Black Tie color.  Also the single button front, satin shawl collar, and besom pockets meet all the requirements.

3.) Midnight Blue ‘Maxwell’ Tuxedo by G. Alexander

No.  Besides the obvious grey, this has a 2 button front, notch lapels, and the lapels are satin with self trim.  It's an awesome tuxedo, but not a Black Tie Tuxedo.

4.) Steel Grey ‘Twilight’ Tuxedo Coat by Jean Yves
















Nope.  It's a beautiful tuxedo, but again the notch lapel and two button front mean it isn't a Black Tie Tuxedo.

5.) Black Slim Fit ‘Parker’ Tuxedo by Ike Behar

Yes!  While similar to the Parker, the Jackson has Satin Peak Lapels and a 1 Button Front.  Not only is this style Black Tie appropriate, the cut is also really nice.

6.) Black Slim Fit ‘Jackson’ Tuxedo by Ike Behar
















Yes!  I thought I'd try to throw you here.  Double Breasted coats are less common but equally appropriate as Black Tie attire.  They also don't have the same 1 button requirements.

7.) Black Double Breasted Tuxedo by Calvin Klein

Yes!  Thought I'd try to throw you again.  In warm weather, a white or off white dinner jacket is also appropriate for 'Tropical Black Tie.'  The dinner jacket should also have a one button front and shawl lapel, though the lapel should be self material, not satin.

8.) White ‘Gerard’ Dinner Jacket by After Six
















Yes.  I really do hope you got this one right.  :-)

9.) Black ‘Icon’ Tuxedo by PM

No.  Same model.  Same serious look.  But the ensemble here is called 'White Tie', and that my friends and neighbors is another tradition entirely.

10.) Black Peak Full Dress Tailcoat by PM
















If you’ve seen ‘The Great Gatsby‘ which is set in the 1920’s, any James Bond sometime in the last 50 years, or watch ‘Mad Men‘ very often which is set in the 1960’s, you’ll see men wearing Black Tie attire. And here’s the astonishing thing. They still look cool, suave and current even today.

If your interest is sparked and you’d like to learn more about Black Tie, check out The Black Tie Guide put together by Peter Marshall, The Black Tie Guy himself. Also check out his guest blog posts on our site!

To see a full listing of our Black Tie offerings, check out the Black Tie Section of our catalog! (not all accessories pictured are Black Tie appropriate, but all coats are.)

Answers: 1.) No 2.) No 3.) Yes 4.) No 5.) No 6.) Yes 7.) Yes 8.) Yes 9.) Yes 10.) No

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Leave a comment and tell us you how you did on the test! Do you have any questions about Black Tie? Leave a comment and we will get back to you! Let your voice be heard!